“The colours, shapes, and repetition in nature absolutely fascinate me.” So says Ng’endo Mukii, a Berlinale Talents and Design Indaba Alumni and this weeks Capital Lifestyle Instagrammer of the Week.
Mukii is lives and works in Nairobi as an independent filmmaker. The Royal College of Art and the Rhode Island School of Design graduate has received several accolades locally and internationally for her films. These include the Silver Hugo for Best Animated Short at the Chicago International Film Festival 2013 for her film Yellow Fever, and Kalasha 2015 Best Animation Production Award for This Migrant Business. Most recently, she won Up Nairobi’s inaugural Disruptor of The Year Award 2015.
“All my photographs on Instagram act as mementos to larger moments in my life be it work or social, a visual diary of my experiences.”
The filmmaker effortlessly shares moments in her life from unique perspectives that inspire followers to notice and even admire details that are commonly ignored. On Mukii’s Instagram feed you will enjoy a single moment shared through a series of posts, each image as it’s own component but collaboratively the images showcase another perspective, satirical expressions, and her daily experiences.
Capital Lifestyle reached out to Mukii to find out how photography and Instagram have impacted her journey in Mobile Photography.
What cameras do you enjoy shooting with and what do you like most about them?
I shoot with my FujiFilm X10. This is a great compact camera, that has a beautiful sense of weight to it, allowing me to keep very loose and agile when using it. It’s the professional photographer’s ‘not-at-work’ dream camera. It’s got full manual capabilities and great auto settings, and has a cool old-school-metal-hard-case look…cause you know your photos are better when you envision yourself as a German war photographer with a Leica in hand.
Most of the time I happen to see something I want to photograph on the go. I usually have my phone on me, so all of my Instagram photos are #iPhone6Only. In terms of video, the slow-motion videos on the iPhone are yummily smooth…. very yummy.
Where do you shoot most of your photos and what sort of photos do you like to take best?
When I was younger I was obsessed with drawing flowers. Eventually my father suggested that I ‘mature’ in my interests. Nowadays, I mostly photograph the flowers. Nature related images densely populate my photographs and influence my work, especially when working in printmaking. The colours, shapes, and repetition in nature absolutely fascinate me. There are details and textures we do not see immediately with the eye, such as the hair growing on a moth’s back, or how the ripples on a bark resemble ocean tides, but the camera captures all this. When you photograph these close up, the
details revealed are a universe within themselves. I love this!
Panoramas get me EVERY time. There’s something amazing about flattening 180 degrees and more into a single image. I enjoy using these to document where I have travelled to and the experiences I have enjoyed, whether it’s an art opening in Nairobi, or walking towards one solitary plane on the tarmac at Arvidsjaur airport in the north of Sweden, or sitting on the grass outside my studio with a monkey running by. I usually upload these in a
series of 3 on IG.
All my photographs on IG act as mementos to larger moments in my life be it work or social, a visual diary of my experiences.
What are your top tips for taking captivating Instagram photos?
There are different currencies of value for an image when you consider Instagram. I follow some artists purely for the beauty of their work, from painters to ceramicists, weavers to architects, animators and photographers. Some accounts I follow for social content, such as debates concerning body-positivity, intersectional feminism and race issues. We often use these as starting points for conversations with my friends.
Most of my animated work has a social element to it, and I have started considering this in photography. Recently Madonna visited Kenya and took a photo ‘with the Samburu tribe.’ I find it mildly (very) annoying how ‘natives’ in mostly developing countries are used as backdrops and props to stage experiences for Westerners, extending 19th century exploration escapades into the here and now.
‘Natives’ and ‘indigenous’ people still serve as simplified tools communicating the thrillseeking character of the Westerner dictating the photographs. It says “I’m so cool and new age and connected to the soul of the earth, here are some natives to prove it. #Namaste #SpiritAdventures #OneWithTheTribe #TribalChique.”
Long story short, I decided to make a satirical piece based on that image. Since I was in Sweden for a film festival last week, I gathered the most ‘different’ looking white men I could find there. Men that would have people staring at them in the market in Nairobi. I showed them the Madonna image, and we recreated it together. It was a great, collaborative piece with all of us playing our roles to achieve it. Even in the satirical effort, the men were never reduced to nameless tools, and it would be great to make a series breaking down certain stereotypes using this sort of light hearted humour. I love it.
So, in the end my top tips are, focus on what you are passionate about, collaborations are great, some posts need planning, others are spontaneous, the value of your post is not directly tied to this, or anything else. It is your post. Have fun.
Which instagrammers do you recommend everyone to follow?
It’s taken me longer than I will admit to whittle this down to a list of 3. It started off as 15
that I absolutely love….. and still in the end, I have 4.
Here we go:
How has Instagram influenced your profession and your business?
Instagram has opened my eyes to the possibilities of self-promotion and marketing in a very direct word-of-mouth ‘human’ way. It allows a lovely sense of personality. People express their passions, emotions and thoughts very openly and challenge commonly held ideas or beliefs. Overtime you come to understand the voice and direction of each account holder.
As an artist you can use it to set your work apart and define yourself so that when a client approaches you, they do so knowing your ethos, strengths and interests. I’m quite new on Instagram and learning how to integrate these elements so as to put them to use in defining myself as an artist and as a brand.
5 Favourite Ng’endo Mukii Instagram Posts
For Madonna’s Sake!
Nothing more can be said about this photo. This is an ode to all the ‘natives’ of the world fetishized by blonde women on a trip to save the planet…… Gosh it sounds very harsh when I put it that way, but it still feels true.
Walking across the grass back to studio there was a loud ‘krreeeckaack!!’ as a massive palm frond detached itself from its tree. The inside reminded me of ripples across the desert, or the flow of water across a stony river bed.
I was walking outside the Hector Pieterson Museum in Johannesburg, when an old woman with a Zulu accent called me to her roadside kiosk saying “come here my baby, I’ll make you real pretty!!” The rest is history.
The Ammarnäs Cross
I took this photo a little before midnight during the Ammarnäs documentary film festival in the north of Sweden. I remember reading about the summer sun never setting at the poles during my standard 4 geography class, and going ‘oooooo’….. and I had exactly the same reaction as an adult when finally experiencing it.
I’ve been wanting to see Yayoi Kusama’s work in person for years and caught it in Stockholm. She’s such a prolific and obsessive artist, her work is an experience in itself. #ModernaMuseet